by Alex Trauner

Behind the Scenes of Equine Research Projects

Behind the Scenes of Equine Research Projects

How can peer-reviewed research help you choose your horse’s supplements? If you’ve read about supplements and supplement companies before, you’ve probably seen the term “peer-reviewed research.” But what exactly is peer-reviewed research, and what does it mean when choosing your horse’s supplements?

As a horse owner, choosing what to feed your four-legged family members can be overwhelming. Feed stores overflow with different grains and supplements, all having unique ingredients, formulations, feeding rates, and intended purposes. 

It can be hard to know which products are backed by research and serve their intended purpose. Without federal regulations, horse owners must evaluate their own supplements to determine the quality and effectiveness of any given product, often relying on labels and marketing to make decisions. 

Peer-reviewed research helps to validate supplement efficacy and support companies in making formulation decisions.

What is Peer-Reviewed Research?

Peer-reviewed research is scientific work that undergoes rigorous review by objective PhD researchers before publication. 

For equine supplement research, this means that work will be reviewed by other experts in horse nutrition and physiology. This review process evaluates the rationale, methods, and results of research to ensure that the experimental design and analysis are sufficient to accurately test the objectives at hand, that the science is high quality, and that the findings being published are original and add to current knowledge in the field.

Every day, scientists ask questions that inspire this research. These questions are often based on current challenges in the industry, previous research results that need further exploration, and ideas to improve animal health and performance. 

Experiments are designed to test these questions in a controlled environment to determine cause and effect. However, controlling variables in animal research can be tricky and sometimes unrealistic with industry management practices.

The Logistics of Equine Research Projects 

Let’s walk through, step-by-step, what horse research looks like on a practical, day-to-day basis.

  1. Before a study begins, scientists must secure sufficient funding, a source of research animals, and approval from animal use committees and regulatory boards.

  2. Daily tasks throughout the study include basic animal care as well as administration of the experimental protocol – perhaps weighing out hay, grain, and supplements for feeding at specific time points, or applying meticulously planned exercise protocols. 

  3. Samples are taken (possibly blood, fecal material, muscle samples, joint fluid, etc.), commonly on a daily, weekly, or bi-weekly basis. Sample collection days often encompass 12+ hour, “all-hands-on-deck” days.

  4. Given that the study goes smoothly, and you get all the samples you need, the next step is getting your samples from the field/barn/research facility to the lab in a timely manner to prevent sample degradation and contamination.

  5. After that, sample analysis, data wrangling, and statistical analysis all provide their own set of obstacles to overcome to complete a successful study.

What Challenges Typically Present in Equine Nutrition Research?

Human error, animal variability, faulty equipment, contamination, and protocol optimization can introduce room for error. 

Horses may refuse the feed or supplement being tested, get sick and must be taken off study, become lame and can’t complete exercise protocols, or they just aren’t particularly keen on participating in sample collection. 

Individual animal health, metabolism, behavior, breed, and even sex can impact responses to the variable being tested (feed, supplement, drug, exercise, therapy, etc.). Oftentimes, certain lab tests haven’t been done in horses before, so they must be validated and optimized from protocols used in other species or different types of samples before that protocol can be reliably used for equine research.

Scientists account for these sources of variation (known as confounding variables) by using sufficient animal numbers, replicating sample analysis, and designing repeatable studies to verify results. 

Huge amounts of money and labor go into completing successful, sound research, i.e. “doing good science.” 

Research trials often take months or even years to complete, all with the goal of making discoveries that tell us more about how to improve the health, performance, and management of our animals.

To Sum Up Horse Teaching and Research 

Research in equine nutrition, exercise physiology, and behavior can help horse owners make evidence-based decisions about how to supplement their horses. 

Equine research, while challenging, provides insight on how certain ingredients can support optimal health and performance. 

Next time you’re in the market for supplements, take a moment to evaluate the science behind a product. Choosing products that are supported by peer-reviewed research will allow you to have confidence in the safety and efficacy of your horse’s supplements.

FullBucket is proud to use extensive peer-reviewed research to support the development of our products, allowing us to bring you the best possible solutions for your horse. 

Our ingredients are hand-selected by a PhD equine nutritionist and two world-class veterinarians, who work together to objectively dig into the research and formulate accordingly. 

Check out all of our scientifically-backed horse products here

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